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Winsford is a town and civil parish within the unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chestermarker and the ceremonial county of Cheshiremarker, Englandmarker. It lies on the River Weavermarker south of Northwichmarker, and grew around the salt mining industry after the river was canalised in the eighteenth century, allowing freight to be conveyed northwards to the Port of Runcornmarker on the River Merseymarker.

Winsford is split into two neighbourhoods: Overmarker on the western side of the River Weavermarker and Whartonmarker on the eastern side.


Kings Henry III and Edward I occasionally held court at Darnhallmarker near Winsford The latter king founded Vale Royal Abbeymarker at Darnhall, but then moved it in 1277 to near Whitegatemarker. By around 1280, a charter had been granted to form a new town near the Abbey, centred on the present-day Delamere Street in Winsford. From this charter can be traced the origins of the market that is still held in the town.

The Government gave permission for artificial improvements to the River Weavermarker in 1721 to allow large barges to reach Winsford from the port of Liverpoolmarker. At first, this was the closest that barges carrying china clay from Cornwallmarker could get to the Potteries district of north Staffordshire, which was then rapidly developing as the major centre of ceramic production in Britainmarker.

Cornish china clay was used in the production of earthenware and stoneware. The clay was taken overland from Winsford by pack horse to manufacturers in the Potteries, a distance of about 30 miles (48 km). Locally-produced salt was also transported to the Potteries, for use in the manufacture of salt-glazed stoneware. Finished ceramics from the Potteries were brought back to Winsford, for export through the port of Liverpoolmarker. That trade ended in the 1780s when the Trent and Mersey Canal opened and carried the goods through Middlewichmarker, bypassing Winsford.

The canalised River Weavermarker was the inspiration for the Duke of Bridgewater's canals and later the engineer for the Weaver Navigationmarker, Edwin Leader Williams, designed and built the Manchester Ship Canal.

From the 1830s, salt became important to Winsford, partly because the salt mines under Northwichmarker had begun to collapse and another source of salt near the River Weavermarker was needed. A new source was discovered in Winsford, leading to thedevelopment of a salt industry along the course of the River Weavermarker, where many factories were established. By 1897, Winsford had become the largest producer of salt in Britainmarker . As a result, a new town developed within a mile of the old Borough of Overmarker which had been focused on Delamere Street. Most of the early development took place on the other side of the river, with new housing, shops, pubs, chapels and a new church being built in the former hamlet of Wharton. As the prevailing winds blew the smoke away from Over, it became the place for the wealthier inhabitants to live. However, barge workers and others working in Winsford started to develop the area along the old Over Lane, now the High Street. The old Borough tried to keep itself separate but had been connected by the 1860s.

Winsford, as seen from Weaver Valley Park, Wharton
By the World War II, employment in the salt trade had declined as one company took control of all the salt works and introduced methods of manufacture that needed much less labour. Slum clearance started in the 1930s and, by the 1950s, three new housing estates had been built on both sides of the river to replace sub-standard homes. However, even in the 1960s, Winsford could be described as "one long line of mainly terraced houses from the station to Salterswall".

The town experienced a major expansion in the late 1960s and 1970s with its designation as a New Town. This saw the development of two new industrial areas on both sides of the town, new estates of council and private housing and a new shopping centre with a library, sports centre, civic hall and doctors' surgeries. But the town's population did not grow as much as planned, so the new civic buildings were too large for the population.

The expansion led to a mix of people in the town, comprising the original Cheshire residents, a wave of migrants from Manchestermarker, and a second and much larger wave of newcomers from Liverpoolmarker. There was (and to some extent still is) some friction between "Old" and "New" Winsfordians. The term "Woolyback" for "Old" Winsfordians was a common term of abuse related to their supposed rural roots. These tensions have now greatly subsided.

Vale Royalmarker Borough Council was formed in 1974, covering Winsford, Northwich and a large rural area of mid-Cheshire. In 1991, the council moved its main office from Northwich to a purpose-built headquarters in Winsford, which since April 2009 has been useed by its successor authority Cheshire West and Chester Councilmarker. The same building also houses Winsford Town Council. Since then both Cheshire Fire Service (in 1997) and Cheshire Police (in 2003) have moved headquarters from the county town of Chestermarker to Winsford.


Map of civil parish of Winsford within the former borough of Vale Royal

Political representation

Currently there are two layers of local government with responsibility for Winsford, Cheshire West and Chester Councilmarker, and the town council. The town is represented by Stephen O'Brien, Member of Parliament for Eddisbury.

Prior to this, there were three tiers. However, Vale Royal Borough Councilmarker and Cheshire County Council were abolished on 31 March 2009.


A small area in the south of the civil parish falls within the Weaver Valley Area of Special County Value.


The climate is generally temperate with few extremes. The average temperature is slightly above the average for the United Kingdom, as is the average amount of sunshine. The average annual rainfall is slightly below the average for the UK. On an annual basis there are few days when snow lies on the ground, although there are some days of air frost.



Major supermarkets are Asda and Aldi in the town centre and Morrisons in Wharton. Other major chains include DW SPORTS Sports, Argos, Superdrug, Boots, New Look, Brantano and Peacocks. The shopping centre is of 1970s design, with some covered areas.

Winsford Rock Salt and Rock Salt Mine

The UK's largest rock salt mine is at Winsford. It is one of only three places where rock salt is commercially mined in the UK, the others being at Boulby Minemarker, North Yorkshire, and Kilrootmarker, near Carrickfergusmarker, Northern Irelandmarker.

Rock salt was laid down in this part of North West England 220 million years ago, during the Triassic geological period. Seawater moved inland from an open sea, creating a chain of shallow salt marshes across what is today the Cheshire basin. As the marshes evaporated, deep deposits of rock salt were formed.

Extraction began at Winsford in the 17th century. Initially it was used only as salt licks for animals, and to strengthen weak brine. In 1844 Winsford Rock Salt Mine was opened, and is claimed by its operator, Salt Union Ltd., to be "Britain's oldest working mine". Salt Union Ltd. is part of the US-owned group of companies Compass Minerals. Today, rock salt is quarried from a depth of more than 150 metres below ground, producing salt (commonly known as "grit") for use as a de-icing agent on roads. The mine produces 1 million tonnes of rock salt annually, and has a network of 135 miles (217 km) of tunnels over several square miles underneath the area between Winsford and Northwichmarker.

A worked-out part of the mine is operated by DeepStore Ltd., a records management company offering a secure storage facility. Confidential government files, hospital patient records, historic archives belonging to The National Archivesmarker, and business data are stored in the mine, where the dry and stable atmosphere provides ideal conditions for long-term document storage.

Local Media

Winsford has one local newspaper, the weekly Winsford and Middlewich Guardian[116075] (part of the Newsquest Media Group). The town was previously served by a second weekly paper, the Mid-Cheshire Chronicle (part of the Trinity Mirror group), but the title ceased publication on September 30, 2009.

A community radio station, Cheshire FM[116076], broadcasts from studios in Winsfordmarker to the mid-Cheshire region of Northwichmarker, Winsfordmarker and Middlewichmarker. The station was launched on March 30, 2007.


St Chad's Church

This church, off Swanlow Lane, is the most well-known local historical landmark. One of the most popular local stories is that St Chad's Churchmarker was originally built in Over Square, but the devil was so angry at the people's use of it that he decided to fly off with it. The monks at Vale Royal Abbeymarker were said to have seen him and rung the abbey bells so that it was dropped at its current location. In fact, its location is probably due to it having always belonged, along with its tithes, to St Mary's Convent in Chester. This presumably convinced the Abbot to build the town far enough away from the Church in order to gain the tithes himself.

Stone (or 'Saxon') Cross

By St John's Church of England Primary School, on Delamere Street, is a rare (possibly unique) lock-up/monument built in the 19th century. The Over Market met nearby, and the Cross was used to lock up drunks, thieves and swindlers until the magistrates court at the George and Dragon on the edge of Delamere Street was in session. The building is in the form of a stepped pyramid surmounted by a cross. The door to the lock-up is still visible but was blocked up in the 1970s.

Many invented tales of buried treasure and secret passages are told about the Cross but none are true. The nearby street name of Saxon Crossway was invented by the Borough Council in the 1960s. The real Saxon Cross is preserved at St Chad's Church.

Winsford Flashes

The Winsford Flashes are the town's most notable geographical feature. In referring to them as the "Cheshire Broads", a comparison is made with the better-known Norfolk Broads. "Flash" is an English dialect word for "lake", with a regional distribution centred on the north-west counties of Cheshiremarker and Lancashiremarker. The Winsford Flashes (Top Flash, Middle Flash, and Bottom Flash, the largest) are three lakes along the course of the River Weavermarker, extending over some 200 acres (80 hectares). They formed in the 19th century (cartographical evidence dates their formation to between 1845 and 1872), due to the subsidence of surface ground into underground voids. The voids were largely the result of brine extraction, in which rock salt deposits were dissolved and washed out by water. As the ground slumped into the voids, the River Weavermarker widened at each point, until lakes were made where arable land had once been. From the late 19th century, Winsford Flashes became popular with working class day-trippers from the nearby industrial centres of Manchestermarker and the Staffordshire Potteries. Visitors came in large numbers for a day's leisure boating, picknicking, and sightseeing.However, the Winsford Flashes were never developed as a public amenity, and their popularity soon fell into decline. Today, they are primarily enjoyed by the local community, and are used for sailing (Winsford Flash Sailing Club is based on the 90 acre (35 hectare) Bottom Flash ), fishing, and walking. They support a wide range of wildlife, with several species of migrant wildfowl, such as Canada Geese, using them as an over-winter destination.

Other places

Brunner Guildhall, as seen from across the High Street
St John's Church on Delamere Street dates from 1863 when Lord Delamere of Vale Royal commissioned the young Sandiwaymarker architect John Douglas to build it as a memorial to his deceased wife. This is the tallest building on the highest part of Over, so the spire can be seen for miles around.

The Brunner Guildhall, which is now a part of Mid Cheshire College, was built in the late 19th century.

Historic Landmarks

Parts of the Knights Grange pub, Grange Lane was built in the 17th century.

Littler Grange, now a children's nursery, is the best remaining half-timber building in Winsford, including sloping floors on part of the first floor.

The Saint John's tunnel was rumored to hold the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Some believe this tunnel was a decoy but others believe the Jewels were stored in Winsford for some time until they were moved overseas via the River Weaver.

Dawk House on Swanlow Lane is a largely unaltered timber framed farm, covered in white stucco probably during the reign of Queen Anne, including the date 1711.

Blue Bell Inn by St Chad's Church, now also a children's nursery, is an exact replica of a medieval building that burned down in the 1960s.


Winsford railway stationmarker, on the Liverpool to Birmingham main linemarker, is one mile (1.5 km) east of the centre of the town, in Wharton. The town at one time had two other railway stations: Winsford and Overmarker, on a branch from the Mid-Cheshire Line near Cuddington, and Over and Wharton, on a branch from the Liverpool to Birmingham line.

The M6 motorway at junction 18 at Middlewichmarker is the nearest motorway link, with the A54 connecting the town to it.

The nearest airports are Liverpool John Lennon Airportmarker and Manchester Airportmarker.


Primary Schools

  • Darnhall Primary School
  • Grange Primary School
  • Greenfields Primary School
  • Handley Hill Primary School
  • Winsford High Street Community Primary School
  • Leaf Lane Infant School
  • Overhall Primary School
  • St. Chad's C of E Primary School
  • Over St. John's C of E Primary School
  • St. Josephs' Roman Catholic Primary School
  • Wharton CE Junior School
  • Willow Wood Infant School
  • Willow Wood Junior School

Secondary Schools

  • Hebden Green Community School
  • Oaklands School
  • The Verdin High School
  • Woodford Lodge High School


  • Mid Cheshire College - Winsford
  • Winsford Sixth Form

Religious sites

Sports and recreation

The town has a non-league football team, Winsford Unitedmarker that suffered numerous relegations and now plays in the North West Counties Football League Division 2. Support for the team has dwindled over the years, falling from a pre-war peak of over 10,000 to just 100. The Blues, (after the colour of their shirts) play at Barton Stadium. Neville Southall once played for the club.

Winsford ASC is a swimming club which has achieved Swim21 club status and won the North West Division 1 speedo league. It has now been promoted to the premier league.

Vale Royal Athletic Club is based mainly in Northwichmarker and Winsford, and has several international athletes training with them. This club was created in its present form by the merger, in 1994, of the Mid Cheshire Athletic Club and Winsford Athletic Club.

The youth football teams are Winsford Over 3 and Winsford diamonds.

Winsford Cricket Club play in the Meller Braggins Cheshire Cricket League, which forms part of the Cheshire pyramid. Winsford have had a cricket team since 1888 when the team was founded by ICI workers and played at the Dingle, next to the Palace Picture House (now Palace Bingo). In 1991 Winsford moved to Knights Grange to allow the Council to build the new council offices (Wyvern House).

Allotment gardens at Moss Bank, Over, date from 1924, when William Stubbs of 'Leahlands', Swanlow Lane, sold a field behind High Street to Winsford Urban District Council, ‘for the purpose of the Allotments Act’. The field, named on the 1846 Over Parish Tithe Map as 'Well Field', had been farmed since at least the seventeenth century, and its conversion to allotments secured its use for future generations. The site shrank in the 1960s and 1970s with the building of housing and an electricity sub-station along Moss Bank, but the acquisition in 1970 of land adjacent to Over Recreation Ground brought it to its present size.

In the late 1980s, a record-breaking pumpkin was grown on the allotments. Weighing in at 579 lb (263 kg), it held the national record for a time.

The allotments (about 50 plots and 5 raised beds) are owned and managed by Winsford Town Council. The plot-holders have their own organisation, Over Allotments and Leisure Gardeners’ Association. Lottery funding has enabled a programme of on-going improvements since 2002, the most recent grant being in 2007 from the Awards for All scheme for £6,940.

Winsford is also well known for its crown green bowlers, with many of the top players in the country hailing from Winsford over the years, many of whom played or play for Wharton Cons BC.

Winsford Flash Sailing Club is situated on Bottom Flash, the largest of the town's three flashes. The club was founded (originally as Northwich Sailing Club) in 1931 and moved to Winsford in 1934.

The Brighton Belle pub was known as the Railway Inn until 1972, when a Pullman carriage from the Brighton Belle train was added to function as a restaurant. In the next 26 years the carriage became a local landmark until it was removed in 1998 because the cost of refurbishment in situ was prohibitive.

Notable people

Twin town

Winsford is twinned with:

Winsford also has an informal ‘friendship link' with:

See also

Notes and References

  1. Cheshire County Council: Interactive Mapping: Areas of Special County Value: Weaver Valley (accessed 3 March 2009)
  2. Met. Office:Average annual mean temperature. Accessed 15 April 2007
  3. Met. Office:Average annual sunshine. Accessed 15 April 2007
  4. Met. Office:Average annual rainfall. Accessed 15 April 2007
  5. Met. Office:Days of snow lying. Accessed 15 April 2007
  6. Met. Office:Days of air frost. Accessed 15 April 2007
  7. List of shops in Winsford. Retrieval Date: 20 August, 2007.
  8. Irish Salt Mining and Exploration Company
  9. Welcome to Deep Store
  12. K. L. Wallwork, Subsidence in the Mid-Cheshire Industrial Area, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 122, No. 1 (Mar., 1956), pp. 40-5
  13. Reported in Winsford in Old Picture Postcards, Margaret F. Thomas (European Library, Zaltbommel, Netherlands, 1986, card number 75), quoting from a town guide "issued shortly after the First World War."
  15. Winsford High Street Community Primary School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  16. Leaf Lane Infant School Official School Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  17. Overhall Primary School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  18. St. Chad's C of E Primary School Official School Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  19. Over St. John's C of E Primary School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  20. Wharton CE Junior School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  21. Willow Wood Infant School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  22. Willow Wood Junior School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  23. Hebden Green Community School Official School Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  24. The Verdin High School Official Website. Accessed: 2007-06-23.
  25. Winsford Amateur Swimming Club (ASC). Retrieval Date: 20 August, 2007.
  26. Vale Royal Athletic Club. Retrieval Date: 20 August, 2007.
  27. Deed of Conveyance, held at Vale Royal Borough Council offices, Winsford
  28. Local newspaper story; paper's name and date not recorded on cutting seen
  30. Susan Howson, ‘Bradbury, John Swanwick, first Baron Bradbury (1872–1950)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008
  31. Regimental details of Clarke and his VC
  33. David Iredale, ‘Falk, Herman Eugene (1820–1898)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
  35. Stephen Wright, ‘Nixon, Robert (supp. fl. late 15th–early 17th cent.)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  38. Town twinning links
  39. Town twinning links

Further reading

  • "A Ninety Year History: Winsford Church of England Primary School 1909-1999: St Chad's Primary School" by Mary Curry, Leonie Press, 2001.
  • "The Book of Winsford" by J. Brian Curzon, Quotes, 1997 - a general introduction to the town's history.
  • "Winsford" by J. Brian Curzon, Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2001 - Mainly photographs with captions
  • "A Cheshire Parish at War: St Chad's, Over, Winsford, 1914-1925" by Ann Clayton, 1998 - who fought in the First World War from the congregation of St Chad's and what happened to them.
  • "Woollyback" by Alan Fleet, Leonie Press, 2000 - a fictional account of Winsford in the 20th Century.
  • "The Winsford and Over Branch" by RW Miller, Oakwood Press, 1999
  • "Winsford Returns" by Alan Ravenscroft, 1996 - A list of all those who served in the First World War.
  • "It's All Over", J.Brian Curzon, 2006
  • "Official Winsford Town Guide", Winsford Town Council, 2006

External links

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